A divided school board yesterday approved the hiring of a liaison to oversee construction of two new high schools, while eliminating a requirement that he be paid from school construction funds.
"When we sat down with the county commissioners, we made clear that we did not want this money coming from our budget. It is the county's employee and they should pay for him," said school board member Gary W. Bauer.
Bauer joined school board President C. Scott Stone and board member Ann M. Ballard in voting to delete the funding clause from the document that legally defines the responsibilities and limitations of the commissioners' liaison.
School board members Susan W. Krebs and Joseph D. Mish Jr. voted against the deletion, arguing that there's virtually no distinction, since both budgets are funded with tax dollars collected by the county.
The agreement had stated that "the compensation for the county's liaison to the Board of Education will be charged against the BOE contingency account for the new Westminster high school" and that "the county will replenish the contingency fund in the event the cost of the liaison creates a shortfall."
The board then unanimously approved the scope of the liaison's job.
When the commissioners voted in April to hire an independent consultant to oversee construction of high schools in Eldersburg and Westminster, school and county officials praised the decision as one that would demonstrate cooperation between the school system and county commissioners. They also said it would rebuild a public trust that has crumbled in the wake of bungled construction projects, a grand jury investigation and several multimillion-dollar lawsuits against the school system.
But problems sprang up almost immediately as the school board and county commissioners attempted to hammer out the liaison's job description. Stone identified funding as one of three points of contention that would be "enough for me to walk away from this whole thing." The other two points were the scope of the consultant's involvement and whether a contractor who had previously done work for the school board would be eligible for the job.
Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said she and her colleagues would have to discuss whether the funding source - an issue she called "a matter of semantics" - would present an obstacle.
But she also questioned whether the concept of hiring a liaison to be the county's "eyes and ears" on school construction projects will make much of a difference as bulldozers prepare the site for the new $35.4 million Westminster high school adjacent to Cranberry Station Elementary.
"As far as I'm concerned, we're already behind the eight ball," Frazier said. "We should be analyzing what we've done on Century [High School in Eldersburg] before we embark on a new high school for Westminster.
"Because the project is already started, I'm not sure we're going to be able to make a difference. We can give our opinion and by asking questions maybe save a quarter of a million dollars here or there, but that's about it," she said.
In other business, the superintendent appointed several principals and Stone introduced the countywide elected student representatives.
Deborah Bunker, an assistant principal at Winfield Elementary, was named principal of Linton Springs Elementary. Catherine E. Hood was appointed principal of Oklahoma Road Middle, where she has served as an assistant principal since 1997.
Ronald J. Laczkowski, who has taught English and been an assistant principal at North Carroll and Westminster high schools, will become principal of Liberty High. Rose Mattavi, a former teacher and special education specialist who has spent the last year on the school system's Continuous Improvement team, will become an assistant principal at Hampstead Elementary.
Dwayne E. Piper was appointed an assistant principal at South Carroll High, where he has been a special education teacher and acting assistant principal. And Phyllis L. Sonnenleiter, who has been a reading teacher and assistant principal, will become principal of Taneytown Elementary, where she has served as acting principal this year.
Nichole Ervin, a South Carroll High senior who just finished a term as student representative to the school board, was elected president of the Carroll County Student Government Association. Zachary T. Adams, a Westminster High senior, will serve as vice president and South Carroll High senior Katherine A. Sunderlin will be treasurer. Sarah M. Hund, a Westminster High senior, was elected student representative to the school board.